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EMO director will retire on July 18

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 May 2014 at 12:00 am

Paul Wagner led emergency management after 9-11, and through radio project

Photo by Tom Rivers – Paul Wagner, director of the Emergency Management Office in Orleans County, poses with a birthday cake for him today on his 68th birthday. The cake was shared before the Orleans County Legislature meeting this afternoon.

ALBION – The leader of the Emergency Management Office in Orleans County will retire on July 18 after seeing through a $7.1 million new emergency communications system.

Paul Wagner, 68, considered retiring sooner but he was committed to waiting until the new digital system was ready and working. Today the county switched from an analog system to the new digital one.

“I didn’t think it was fair to leave somebody else to pick up all of the pieces,” Wagner said today when county officials celebrated the radio system’s success.

He was praised for seeing the project through, while also working with firefighters to keep up with their training for numerous potential disasters, from dirty bombs to hazardous materials to ethanol tankers that catch fire.

“He prepared everyone for threats and worst-case scenarios, including weapons of mass destruction,” said Mike Fuller, chief of the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company.

Wagner started as a firefighter in 1964, when he joined the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company. He later moved across the county and joined the Clarendon Fire Company, serving as the fire chief.

He was appointed EMO director 14 years ago. Fuller said Wagner has the respect of the firefighters, partly based on a long commitment as a volunteer firefighter and past chief.

“You have to walk the walk before you can talk the talk,” Fuller said.

Three firefighters are vying to replace Wagner as the EMO director. Current Albion Fire Chief Rocky Sidari, Past Albion Fire Chief Dale Banker and Past Holley Fire Chief David Knapp, a current county fire investigator, are all pursuing the job.

The Fire Chiefs Association could recommend Wagner’s successor at its meeting June 5. Legislature Chairman David Callard and the Legislature will fill the opening by appointment.